Momofuku Ssam (momofuku means lucky peach) is the second of his slowly growing empire in the East Village. I believe the Noodle Shop opens as I write. Architecturally simple and clean. The kitchen is glass enclosed and completely open to the restaurant. The majority of light actually comes from the kitchen. The kitchen is so clean that it appears to have just opened for business yesterday also feels a bit like a laboratory. Based on what is coming out of the kitchen, a laboratory would be a good description.
"The pig" as we called it has to be ordered in advance. They only do so many seatings during the week. Otherwise, it is a total walk in, no reservations, off the menu that has plenty of pork. We opted for the early Sunday night seating at 6. Just early enough to fill up and long enough on the back end to not roll into bed stuffed to the gills.
We chose a few things off the menu to begin with just to taste because the pig is quite a large piece of meat. It
serves up to 9 people and we had seven last night. We began with the seasonal pickles which are all good. Different and tasty from carrots to cauliflower to ginger to beets. Our second course was the cured Hamachi. 5 slices of yellow tail sprinkled with black sesame seeds and a few edamames hanging out on the plates with some pea leaves and a puree of edamame and horseradish. Very light and tasty. Next out was the sea scallops. These were top. Thinly sliced scallops served with pickled cherries (sweet and sour and strange) served with a lemon puree that was sweet and sour and really complemented the scallops. Next out was the Roasted Mushroom Salad. A combo of mushrooms (we had already had some pickled ones earlier) sauteed and served with pistachios, radishes and a chili sauce. Not sure how he was able to get each mushroom to taste so good. Next out was the Spicy Squid Salad. In a small round bowl lots of tiny pieces of squid that had a red flavor. The squid had been sauteed, not fried, in a sichuan pepper and red chili paste and tiny pieces of celery cut up with the squid. This was fantastic. The bite of the celery and the spiciness of the squid that was tender. I could have eaten a few bowls of this myself. Last out was the brussel sprouts. Everyone loved the brussel sprouts. Halved and roasted served in a liquid of chilies, mint and fish sauce and topped with puffed rice. Original and delicious. Even though we were having an entire pig we couldn’t help ourselves and not order some Pork buns. There is nothing quite like it. The chewy light bun that has been split in half and stuffed with two slices of very fatty pork, scallions and a bit of sauce. Simple and sublime.
While waiting we watched the makings in the kitchen of the Momofuku Saams which kept coming out of he kitchen, Emily called it the Chinese Burritto. They take a large flour pancake and top it with pulled pork, caramelized onions, shitake mushrooms, large edamames and red kimchi. Then roll it up like a burrito and serve. It is a total wow. Now how bad could that be?
Now it was time for "the pig". Out comes a bowl of lettuce, a bowl of ginger scallion puree which is rich and tasty, kimchi and spicy chili sauce. Then out comes a dozen oysters. They recommend taking an oyster in a slice of lettuce, top with the pig and then the sauces. Hmmm. Out comes the pig. Served with utensils to pull it apart. The meat literally comes of the bone. At one point we find a huge bone that is wiped completely clean. The meat is juicy and tender, the skin is sweet and crispy. Absolutely divine. We all oohed and aahed. I wrapped it up (oyster including) and dug in. Truly a culinary treat.
It is a must do again. I look forward to the Noodle Bar and I might even treat myself to the Momofuku Ssam one night. A total extravaganza that should not be missed by anyone who is seriously into food. David Chang is a genius.
BTW, they do have dessert but tonight it wasn’t happening.